Assessing the climate impact of the AHEAD multi-fuel blended wing body

Volker Grewe, L. Bock, K. Dahlmann, K. Gierens, L. Hüttenhofer, S. Unterstrasser, Arvind Gangoli Rao, Abhishek Bhat, Feijia Yin, T.G. Reichelt, O. Paschereit, Y. Levy

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Air traffic is important to our society and guarantees mobility especially for long distances. Air traffic is also contributing to climate warming via emissions of CO2 and various non-CO2 effects, such as contrail-cirrus or increase in ozone concentrations. Here we investigate the climate impact of a future aircraft design, a multi fuel blended wing body (MF-BWB), conceptually designed within the EU-project AHEAD. We re-calculate the parameters for the contrail formation criterion, since this aircraft has very different characteristics compared to conventional technologies and show that contrail formation potentially already occurs at lower altitudes than for conventional aircraft. The geometry of the contrails, however, is similar to conventional aircraft, as detailed LES simulations show. The global contrail-cirrus coverage and related radiative forcing is investigated with a climate model including a contrail-cirrus parameterisation and shows an increase in contrail-cirrus radiative forcing compared to conventional technologies, if the number of emitted particles is equal to conventional technologies. However, there are strong indications that the AHEAD engines would have a substantial reduction in the emission of soot particles and there are strong indications that this leads to a substantial reduction in the contrail-cirrus radiative forcing. An overall climate impact assessment with a climate-chemistry response model shows that the climate impact is likely to be reduced by 20% to 25% compared to a future aircraft with conventional technologies. We further tested the sensitivity of this result with respect to different future scenarios for the use of bio fuels, improvements of the fuel efficiency for conventional aircraft and the impact of the number of emitted soot particles on the radiative forcing. Only the latter has the potential to significantly impact our findings and needs further investigation. Our findings show that the development of new and climate compatible aircraft designs requires the inclusion of climate impact assessments already at an early stage, i.e. pre-design level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-725
Number of pages15
JournalMeteorologische Zeitschrift
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • AHEAD project
  • Multi fuel blended wing body
  • contrails
  • climate impact
  • air traffic


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